While the business of the Yellowknife Basketball Association (YKBA) for 2022-23 wrapped up earlier this month, there was still one more item on the agenda for adult basketball.
And it was one which was very much welcomed back.
The Arctic Shoot-Out tournament returned to the courts at Weledeh and St. Pat’s Gymnasiums last weekend with the men’s and women’s finals happening on May 7. Six men’s teams and three women’s teams lined up to do battle and when the dust settled, the Regular Sonics came out on top in the men’s final defeating The Bay from Cambridge Bay, while the women’s champs this year are Rag Tag.
Jeremy Bird from the Sonics said that his crew figured they would end up meeting Cambridge Bay in the final.
They were, after all, the reigning and defending two-time men’s champs having won back-to-back in both 2018 and 2019; the latter of the two finals went to double overtime.
“We played them in the last final in 2019 and that’s exactly who we were expecting to see,” said Bird.
The Sonics came out the better of the two teams in the opening quarter and went on a 12-4 run to open things up.
Bird said that, coupled with setting the tone on defence, gave them an early leg up.
“We’re a long, athletic team, but (The Bay) aren’t scrubs at all,” he said. “They won this two times in a row for a reason and they’re a great team. We knew we had to go out with a solid line-up to start the game because we knew they would push us.”
There was the return of Morgan Gallagher, one of the original Sonics, from Ontario for the weekend’s festivities. He’s been living in Ontario since leaving Yellowknife a few years ago, but he came back to suit up for his old team.
“Morgan and I started the Sonics and we’ve had it for about 12 years now,” said Bird. “He let me know he was coming up and it made for a long weekend, but it was great to have him back in the line-up.”
The win was a bit of redemption for Bird as his team, the Bureaucrats, was on the wrong end of the YKBA finals against the Avery Cooper Nuggets.
But there is some movement afoot, as Bird explained.
“After such a successful weekend playing together, we’ve officially signed Jonathan Sappleton (previously with the Nuggets) and Mike Gibbins (previously with the Jazz), who both played with us in the tournament, to the Bureaucrats for next season in hopes of returning the YKBA championship back to its rightful owner. Signing and official handshakes took place at Boston Pizza immediately following the games.”
And since Gallagher never filed his retirement papers, he added, the Bureaucrats retain his rights should he decide to return.
On the women’s side, Hayley Tait of Rag Tag said a lot of the ladies on her team hadn’t played together in a long time and she was unsure how the final would end up.
“I hadn’t played with some of them since our high performance days, but we had the expectation that we would do well,” she said. “We had some university players and it was great to be able to play with girls at the varsity level. They were a big reason we had great offence.”
Those varsity players tait spoke of were Meadow Munroe, Mali Straker and Janet Enge.
The tournament was also a chance for actual competitive women’s games, something which is in short supply in Yellowknife at the present time.
Tait said getting the chance to play against other women was incredible.
“There hasn’t been a tournament in three years and even then, there aren’t a lot of women’s games,” she said. “There isn’t a women’s league in Yellowknife, so being able to reconnect as a basketball community and have that chance to play was amazing. The female basketball community is strong, but we just don’t have the chance to play like the guys do, so having that chance was great and I hope we get more chances.”